Friday, May 26, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Not Really a Work Day Edition

I had the kids home with me today, because our school district takes a four day weekend for Memorial Day. I worked this morning, or tried to. The kids were in the mood to fight with each other, and when they weren't fighting, they were interrupting me. So it wasn't my most productive morning ever. I quit even trying to work at lunch, and took them to the library and then to the skate rink. I rather enjoy the skate rink. It isn't as much fun as a rollerblade by the bay, but that wasn't an option today, and the rink is the next best thing. I skated with Petunia, while Pumpkin and a friend of hers skated and talked. I like watching the tween girls at the rink. They're all having a lot of fun, and are carefree and happy. It is nice to see.

Anyway, my work day was short and not very productive, and I only have a few minutes to get this post out before I need to start dinner. I'll have to find a time this weekend to try to get some work done. I'm struggling with the paperback cover of Hemmed In, my next Taster Flight collection. I keep failing to get the spine text in the right place, and I'm running out of time to get it right. I need to get a proof ordered! But I'll get it done, and I think the June 7 release date will stick. If you're interested in being an advance reader for this book, sign up here. I should have the ebook files ready to send out sometime next week.

On to the links:

Rebecca Traister's new interview with Hillary Clinton is worth your time.

So is Brian Beutler's take on what the Gianforte mess means.

But if you only read one of my links this week, make it Mitch Landrieu's speech on taking down Confederate memorials in New Orleans. It is brilliant and inspiring and I want more like this, please.

This look at when different cities will reach climate departure is really sobering. Climate departure is the point at which the coldest year in the new normal is warmer than the warmest year in the old normal. It isn't all that far away.

"My friend died $50 short"- why a GoFundMe campaign is no substitute for health insurance.

The Montana special election is over, but there will be more elections, and as this thread explains, the Native population has obstacles to voting:

You can donate to Western Native Voice to try to alleviate those obstacles.

Catherine Newman's post about being angry and being polite and being confused by it all rings really, really true to me.

Something happy to end on: some slides I'll have to seek out next time I visit San Francisco.

And of course, a bunny!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Down, Down, Down We Go, Where We'll Stop, Nobody Knows

By the time you read this, we'll probably know the results of the Montana special election. As I'm writing it, though, we do not. We do know that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate assaulted a reporter on the final afternoon of campaigning. The reporter had previously published an unflattering story about that candidate's investments in Russian companies under sanction by the US. The reporter was attempting to ask the candidate about the CBO report on the health care bill that was passed by the House Republican majority that the candidate is running to join. And we know that the candidate lied about the assault in a statement, and that a lot of Conservative commentators defended both the assault and the lie.

We know that most Republican elected officials have avoided comment on this topic, because let's be honest, we also know that if he wins the election, they will of course support him. All that matters is that R after his name. We know that spme Republican voters in Montana have told reporters that they don't care about the assault and think the reporters perhaps also deserve to be assaulted. And we know that the campaign says they raised more than $100,000 in the final day of the campaign, much of that after the news of the assault broke.

My reaction to all of this is just profound sadness. I am sad for my country. I am sad for the people who have so lost their sense of morals that they think a candidate's unprovoked assault on a journalist doing his job is not just not a problem, but an actual good thing. I am sad for a batch of Republican leaders who seem to have no principles beyond party power and cutting taxes for wealthy people.

Of course, none of this can be truly considered surprising anymore, given all the other horrible behavior that we're just shrugging off these days.

I want to ask the people defending Gianforte where the line is. They were OK with Trump calling the press the enemy of the people. They are OK with Gianforte actually assaulting a reporter. Where is the line, past which they will say that behavior is not OK?

How much will they tolerate in their pursuit of lower taxes and what they call "Christian values"? (Scare quotes because I don't think assaulting reporters should be considered "Christian values.")

And, then there is that CBO report. It was as bad as expected, and as Kevin Drum has pointed out, actually highlights that despite the supposed protections for people with pre-existing conditions who keep continuous coverage, if you live in a state that requests a waiver on the community rating provision and you have a pre-existing condition, you'll probably end up priced out of the non-group health insurance market even if you keep continuous coverage.

I have to admit, that last bit is weighing particularly heavily on me, for reasons I discussed a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I live in California, which is extremely unlikely to request a waiver. But what it would mean in practice is that if Mr. Snarky got a job offer in, say, Wisconsin (a state whose governor has said he'd probably seek a waiver), we'd have to consider my health insurance options before he took it. And I keep thinking about all of the people who live in states likely to request a waiver, and how they may find themselves facing a decision about whether to start looking to move. And all the people who will lose coverage outright because of the changes to Medicaid. I hate that we're doing this.

And I keep thinking of the fact the people pushing these unpopular, extreme ideas are not done. Trump's budget, although essentially dead on arrival at Congress, shows us that. They want to cut disability insurance, and food stamps, and on and on and on. And they will keep trying not to investigate the disturbing Russian interference in our election or the many problems happening with the intermingling of Trump's company and our national government to protect their chance to push through these unpopular ideas.

Again, I wonder, how far down do we go? How much evidence of collusion will we ignore? How many unethical business deals will we accept? How much corruption will we pretend we don't see? How much tax money will we let flow to Trump's businesses?

I keep thinking of this tweet I saw during the election:

I am fighting against feeling fatalistic about all of this. According to Nate Silver and his colleagues at 538, polling data indicates that Trump's base is eroding. I also listened to one of Ana Marie Cox's With Friends Like These podcasts that gave me some hope. It was the discussion with Ben Howe, and I can't really summarize it, except to say that I wish the people like him, and Evan McMullin, and David Frum, and so on would either start a movement to take back the Republican party or start a new party. Analysis and discussion is great, but I won't really believe it matters until I see some of the current group of Republicans getting primaried. I sincerely hope this happens. I cannot make it happen, because I do not support even the "normal" Republican positions. But the situation now seems to be that the Republican party is an unholy alliance between people who want extreme cuts to government programs and taxes, the theocratic right, and white supremacists, with each group willing to overlook the excesses of the others as long as they have some hope of achieving their own policy goals.

I have to say, from where I sit, it is a horrifying monster. I am not in the position to fight it from the inside, so I am expending my energy on trying to beat it at the ballot box. But as long as it exists, it will be a threat to our country. None of those groups has anywhere near a majority on its own, but if they keep their mutual assistance pact, they can get in power, especially if the more moderate people who sort of agree with their positions but wouldn't take them quite that far continue to hold their noses and support them. And that's sort of normal for our political system! It is a system that forces coalitions. But the members of this particular coalition are so extreme. It would be like me deciding to vote for someone who wants to nationalize our oil companies because I agree with them on raising the minimum wage, and doing so even though I knew another group in the coalition wanted to outlaw Christmas, and a third group was going to try to send all people of German descent "home" to Germany. It boggles my mind.

And so we continue to hurtle downwards. I hope we reach the limit of the moderates' ability to ignore the stench soon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Stupid Head Cold Edition

It is a beautiful, sunny afternoon here. It would have been a great day for a rollerblade, but I did not go out, because I have a cold. And I will not get to go out for a rollerblade next Friday, either, because our school district takes a four day weekend for Memorial Day, so the kids will be home with me. I suppose at some point I should make plans for what we'll do on that day. Presumably, I can come up with something that will compensate for the lost rollerblade.

Today, my compensation was a nap.

I note with sadness that this was another week in which I didn't manage to write a post. I blame the cold, which has had me feeling not quite well since Tuesday. I am a believer in the power of zinc and so I credit my early use of zinc lozenges with the fact that the cold has stayed mild and while it has slowed me down, it hasn't knocked me out. (There is some evidence to support my zinc belief, and really, even if it is just a placebo effect, I'll take it, so don't bother arguing with me on this point.) But slowed down means that I'm now behind on several things, and it also means that the posts I've had swirling around in my head have stayed there, and not made their way into Blogger. Maybe I'll have better luck next week.

Anyhow, on to the links.

First, a little self promotion: I'm in the final stages of putting together my next Taster Flight. This one is called Hemmed In, and is a collection of classic short stories about women's lives. As usual, I'm looking for advance readers.

I'll assume you can keep up on the ever-accelerated cycle of big news stories about the Trump administration on your own. But here are a couple things that made less of a splash but are still worth some attention:

Internet security at the Trump properties is pretty crappy. This is not surprising, but is a problem given that he likes to spend his weekends at these properties and has already shown that he is happy to conduct sensitive business there.

I have grown increasingly irritated with the comparisons of Trump to a child, and Alexandra Petri perfectly captures why.

Allegra Kirkland has a nice summary of how a single question from Al Franken set up the chain of events that led to a special counsel.

Tom Nichols is hopeful that the special counsel is the end of Putin's winning streak. I suspect we have quite a bit more chaos ahead of us, unfortunately.

Ann Friedman on the five stages of the Trump news cycle.

In other topics:

A legislature that is polarized, but still productive.

I hate that the first word that came to mind to describe this essay by Janice Turner about caring for her elderly mother is "brave," but I am certain she will get a lot of nasty letters for it. It gives me the same feeling I get when I think about how we handle child care: like I can almost see a better way to arrange things, but can't quite get it to come into focus. I would love to read some sci fi or fantasy that imagines a world in which the care of the young and the elderly was less fraught.

It would be natural for me to link here to that Atlantic article by Alex Tizon, but I confess that I have not yet read it, so I will not.

Roger Ailes died. I think this thread captures what a lot of people feel (click through to read the whole thing):

None of my close family members fell into the Fox News information warp, but I know several people who feel like they lost a loved one to Fox News. That is an extraordinary thing to think: that a news channel took a loved one from you, but I have heard it and read it so many places, that I can't really dispute that something was happening there.

Jay Rosen considered the topic from a less personal angle and comes to a similar conclusion:

I don't have the right background to really evaluate all of this critically, but I have long thought that when future historians write about when things started going wrong for our society, they are likely to point to the time when we decided to make news into entertainment. I think the Trump era is a test for Democrats as much as Republicans. Can we resist the lure of conspiracy theories and news media designed more to make us feel good and keep us "hooked" than to inform us about the actual truth of what is happening?

One of the blog posts swirling around in my head touches on this topic, so I'll leave it there for now.

In lighter news:

Here is a project that is attempting to provide a list of companies that make women's clothes with pockets.

And here's a cute bunny!
Happy weekend, everyone.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Holy Cow What a Week Edition

I'm just back from a rollerblade, and my mood is roughly 97% better. I need to remember to consider the mood improvement factor when I'm deciding whether or not I have time for my Friday afternoon rollerblade. I think I should have taken the rollerblade last week, to do list be damned.

Anyway, I needed the mood improvement because yikes, the news is horrifying right now. But I'm going to share some links about it, anyway. Sorry.

James Fallows, who started his career during Watergate, wrote about why the current situation is worse.

Matt Yglesias wrote about why a "good" replacement for Comey won't fix the mess.

Dave Weigel wrote about the cynical "Merrick Garland for FBI director" idea.

David Roberts turned his tweetstorm about how we overanalyze Trump into an article and it is terrifying and also rings terrifyingly true.

In other topics...

There are 27 National Monuments at risk in the review Trump ordered. This article lists which ones and tells how to comment on whether they should be saved.

And here's how to comment on the proposed gutting of Net Neutrality.

This story about how a couple deals with a serious mental illness is really good.

The psychologist who taught us about implicit bias is now working on how to fix it.

Mika McKinnon wrote about the physics of gala gowns.

I haven't had a chance to read this piece with eight writers talking about how Anne of Green Gables influenced them yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Pumpkin and I are working our way through the series. We've just started Anne's House of Dreams.

For my fellow Hamilton fans:

And for my fellow rabbit fans:

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother's Day to those celebrating it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


I am sitting at my car repair place, waiting for them to finish the standard service on our car. Their wi-fi isn't the best, and to be honest, neither is my ability to concentrate right now. So I've given up on the work I was trying to do, and am going to try to write out my feelings, with a vague and probably foolish hope that doing so will make it easier for me to concentrate once I get back to my office.

Yesterday, I heard an offhand mention that Trump had fired Comey as I was closing up after my last meeting and dashing for my car. I was late leaving, and needed to get to school as quickly as I could, so that I could pick up Petunia and take her to her art class. Once I'd settled her there, I went over to the nearby coffee shop, planning to write a post about healthcare. But then I really read the news about Comey, and that plan fell to pieces.

It feels like I'm constantly reassembling the shards of my plans these days. I wanted to write about healthcare to share what I'd figured out about pre-existing conditions. This was a very personal investigation. I already know that I oppose the AHCA because of what it does to Medicaid, but I needed to really understand what it would do to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, because I have one. I am lucky: my pre-existing condition is not life threatening, although it could become so if I lose the ability to treat my mild asthma and it worsens. However, I'm also lucky that my maintenance medication is something I could afford to pay for out of pocket, if it came to that: my maintenance inhaler would cost me ~$250/month, and I can pay that. To be clear, that would be more than I spend on groceries to feed my family for a week, but I could do it. I don't know the cost of the urgent care breathing treatments that I sometimes need to help me get over an upper respiratory infection, but since I need those infrequently, I could probably absorb that, too, if forced, particularly since all of the drugs needed for those more acute treatment sessions are old, and therefore available as generics.

But I know myself and I know what the research has shown about people choosing between a medical treatment that feels optional and keeping those thousands of dollars in their pocket, and I wonder if I'd get the breathing treatment less often that I really should. I want to stay insured.

I am old enough to remember not just the days before the ACA, but the days before there were any protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Then we got a law that said that as long as you kept continuous coverage, you could not be denied coverage for your pre-existing condition on an employer-sponsored plan. If you want to read a harrowing account of what that meant in practice for some people, read Kameron Hurley's account of her 2007 experience with diabetes. Unlike my asthma, that is a disease that really will kill you if you don't treat it.

Anyway, I wanted to know if we were back to the pre-ACA days of needing to keep continuous coverage, or if we were going back further still. I wanted to know because if we were going back further still, I'd seriously consider going back to having a "regular" job so that I would have two lines of defense against losing my coverage. And of course, there would be that little voice in the back of my mind suggesting that we could just move to New Zealand and not have to worry about losing access to basic healthcare.

But then I found the Weeds podcast that discussed the latest bill (the episode called AHCApocalypse III) and learned we'd actually be going to something a little better than pre-ACA: insurance companies couldn't underwrite (i.e., deny coverage or jack up rates) for pre-existing conditions as long as you kept continuous coverage, even if you were moving to the individual market. So, someone like me (i.e., relatively wealthy), will be OK.

But a lot of people will NOT be OK. Continuous coverage can be out of financial reach when someone loses a job, and the assistance the AHCA provides to lower income people is less than what the ACA provides. Also, as I heard Ana-Marie Cox explain on a Pod Save America podcast recently, if the pre-existing condition that you're dealing with is a severe mental health issue, there is a very real possibility that you would not have the capacity to fill out all the forms and do the other bureaucratic tasks required to keep your coverage.

One of the other useful things in that Weeds podcast was an aside Matt Yglesias threw in about why libertarian-leaning Republicans like the Freedom Caucus are opposed to the ACA. It is not just the taxes. It is that many of them genuinely believe we should not be using health insurance to cover routine healthcare. They think it distorts the market and is responsible, at least in part, for driving up the cost of healthcare. They think we should have catastrophic health insurance to cover truly unforeseen things and big surprises, but that "routine" things like my asthma treatment, Petunia's best friend's insulin and test strips, having a baby, and the like, we should pay out of pocket. There is a frequent comparison to car insurance, which does not cover oil changes or the sort of regular maintenance I'm waiting to have done right now.

The problem with this comparison to auto insurance is that we can't decide our healthcare maintenance is getting too expensive and that we should upgrade to a new, more reliable body. There is no equivalent of taking the bus for people who can't afford the cost of maintaining their bodies. We have the body we have. We can try to make good decisions and take good care of it, but we can't choose our genetics. We can't control twists of fate that make some children develop type I diabetes. Libertarians are fond of saying that the government shouldn't be choosing winner and losers, and that the market should decide. But leaving it all to the market just doesn't work in the case of healthcare. It is not government choosing winners and losers, it is genetics and luck. Government assistance with healthcare is the community deciding to even out some of the impact of that luck. My asthma doesn't care if I can afford the maintenance inhaler. A diabetic with a low-paying job still needs their insulin, or they die. A woman who gets pregnant is going to be pregnant whether she can afford to pay for prenatal care or not (particularly if some of these same people get their way and an abortion is difficult if not impossible to obtain).

I do not believe that the majority of Republicans, in Congress or at the voting booth, really want the libertarian vision for healthcare. But that is who they are letting drive their policy choices right now, and so that is what we're aiming for.

So anyway, that is what I wanted to say about healthcare. I convinced myself that I can keep trying to build a company, even if the AHCA becomes law. Wealthy people like me will mostly be fine. I'll still fight this law, because a lot of people won't be fine, but I don't have to start a job search.

But after last night, I'm back to thinking that maybe I should start a job search, because trying to focus on the sort of work I need to be doing to actually build a company is nigh on impossible right now. I'm using all my tricks, and I have some good days. But I have days like today, too. I have noticed that I find it easier to put my head down and work when I'm onsite at a client or focused on a client deliverable than when I'm trying to do "my own" things. Can I keep pushing into these headwinds and do what I need to do to make this company viable? If I'm just going to limp along, supporting the company (and myself) with contract work that is not that different from what I would be doing as a full-time employee, should I keep doing that? Or would I be better off cutting my losses and heading back to a company with benefits? I don't know. So far, I've chosen to lower my head and charge into the headwinds. I'm not sure how long I can keep doing that.

Friday, May 05, 2017

Weekend Reading: The I Should Have Procrastinated on the Accounting and Gone for a Rollerblade Edition

I didn't get my rollerblade today, because I was trying to get caught up after spending yesterday at a conference and stuck in traffic (LA->SD) and half of Wednesday stuck in traffic (SD->LA). I have sworn that next time, I'm going to make the train work out even if it means I won't be home in time to kiss my kids goodnight, because between the two drives, I spent the equivalent of an 8 hour work day sitting in my car and that sucked. But the conference was great (and I got paid to be there), and I got to have dinner with one of my best friends, who now lives in LA, and that was great. So I can't really complain. I'll just try to remember this for next time I look at the train schedules and think they don't really work for me.

Anyhow, I didn't go for a rollerblade, but I also didn't get caught up because one of the retail outlets I sell my books through sent me $1.16 this month and I can't figure out why, which means I can't finish my accounting. I did get fed up and go for a run, though, so I wasn't a total slug.

But on to the links. It is all about healthcare right now, right?

Since I spent more than eight hours in my car in the last two days, I haven't had a chance to read up on what the AHCA really does. From what I've heard, neither did a bunch of the congresspeople who voted for it! But oh well.

I have been amused to hear some conservatives who are frustrated that the bill is getting "misportrayed" and people are saying it does things it doesn't do. I will of course try to avoid doing that. I think we should try to tell the truth and be honest about what the impact of the bill would be. But to these conservatives, I just want to say: DEATH PANELS. You guys are the ones who ratcheted this debate up to a fever pitch in the first place. Your reap what you sow, folks.

Bad Mom, Good Mom sent me a link to the the Congressional Research service's summary of the bill and its impacts. But I haven't had time to read that yet.

From what I've heard about it, I tend to agree with Jamelle Bouie's assessment that it is a very cruel bill.

You may have heard Alabama representative Mo Brooks say that the purpose of this bill is to reduce "the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy." And you may have been surprised to see someone so blatantly claim that those of us with some bad medical luck somehow deserve our fate. But that belief isn't so unusual, and Vann R. Newkirk II explores how it is linked to prosperity gospel.

Through this entire debate, I've said that I agree that their are real problems with the ACA. Here is a story about one of them. As far as I can tell so far, the AHCA does nothing to help fix this problem.

Josh Marshall's Iron Law of Republican Politics is why I am not at all sure the AHCA won't pass the Senate. GOP moderates always cave.

So, that's enough about healthcare for right now. Here are some other things.

I meant to include a link to Ashley Ford's beautiful story about meeting her father after his prison term last week, and forgot. So here it is. Go read it if you haven't. She is a wonderful writer.

Escaped pet birds are teaching wild birds English.

Cool playgrounds!

This bunny kind of sums up my mood right now:

But, it is Friday afternoon, so that's something.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Updates as Events Warrant

I'm in a hotel in LA tonight. I am speaking at a conference tomorrow, so I drove up today. Traffic was less fun than usual, thanks to an accident in Orange County. But on the bright side, I'm almost all caught up on my favorite podcasts now!

Giving seminars is a funny thing for me. In the days leading up to the seminar, I experience a bit of impostor syndrome. I am sure that what I have to say is obvious, and that everyone will hate me. And then I give the seminar, and it goes great, and I love the energy and I want to do more. I honestly don't know if that will ever change, but at least I recognize what's going on now and can deal with it.

Anyway, between the pre-seminar jitters and the news about the AHCA, I need some distracting. Also, I met a friend for dinner and had a couple of beers, and I'm not quite ready to go to sleep yet. So, to distract myself, I'm going to give you updates about things you probably aren't wondering about.

At the beginning of the year, I made a list of personal goals. I've got progress to report on three of them!

1. Paint the baseboards in the hall. Mr. Snarky surprised me and did this, but I'm still claiming it as a win, because we're a team, right?

2. Buy a new mattress. We bought one last Saturday, during our romantic date night. (We also had dinner out and visited a couple of beer tasting rooms, so it wasn't all mattress shopping...) It arrives Saturday and I am soooo excited. I hope this means I'll wake up feeling refreshed and will be less tired. OK, more realistically, I think it should at least help with some back aches I've been having.

3. Volunteer. I found a place! I'm going to help mentor foster kids who are aging out of the system. I go to my orientation and training next week. I'm very excited.

I'm also doing a pretty good job of keeping up my exercise routine, and have even added some low key weight training back in. I'm in trouble when I get too strong for the two sets of dumbbells I have now, but I'll deal with that when I get there.

In other news,  I have a great name for a collection of essays. I do not, however, have either a collection of essays or a deal to publish a collection were I to write one. (Yes, I know I run a publishing company, but having read, or at least attempted to read, quite a few self-published memoirs, I am firm in my conviction that a collection of my personal essays is something I'd want another party to agree is worth publishing before I unleashed it on the world.)

Anyway, having a name and no book is a stark reversal of my usual situation. I did, however, finally come up with a name for my next Taster Flight collection. It will be called Hemmed In. It is an anthology of classic short stories about women's lives. I hope to get it out within the next six weeks. I've got the stories selected and assembled. I "just" need to find the illustrations and do the formatting.

And now I'm starting to feel a bit sleepy, so I think I'll try to go to bed. I'm glad I'll be busy tomorrow, so I can't follow the news as the House of Representatives votes to make it very, very expensive, and perhaps impossible, for someone like me to by health insurance. I hope every single congressperson who votes for this travesty loses their seat in 2018. There are real problems with the ACA. They could have tried to fix those problems. I still don't have a clear statement from the people supporting this bill of what problems it will actually fix. I suspect that is because the problem it is fixing is a political one of their own making, and not anything to do with actually improving healthcare in this country.

Oh well. Good night!

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Here to Help

I have a trait that people tend to dismiss, until they see it in action: People ask me for help. When I used to visit my sister in NYC years ago, she lived there and I was the tourist. And yet people came up to me and asked me which train to take to their destination and where the nearest subway stop was. When I visited Stockholm in graduate school, a couple came up to me and asked me, in phrasebook Swedish, how to get to Gamla Stan. Since my best phrase in Swedish is "jag förstår inte," I answered them in English. 

Lately, this trait mainly manifests in grocery stores. Specifically, elderly men approach me in grocery stores for help in finding items their wives have asked them to get. I would dearly love to know why they think I, in particular, am the best person to ask about whether they should get quick oats or old-fashioned (if she's planning to bake with them, probably old-fashioned) or where to find cranberry sauce in April (canned vegetables aisle). Yes, I know the answers. But how do they know that I'll know? 

People even stop me when I'm out exercising. The most recent was a man who stopped me while I was rollerblading by the bay to ask if he was allowed launch a boat from this location. I did not know the answer to that one, but again: why me? 

My best theory is that I look unimposing and harmless, and like I'll be nice. To be fair, I always am nice. Even to the guy who interrupted my rollerblade.  

I've been thinking about this lately in the context of my career and the election and all the feelings that's stirred up. Back when I was deciding to quit my full time job and go out on my own, I wrote about the cost of my career, and how the traits I had developed to succeed in my male-dominated field often made it harder for me to relate to women. I still can't fully explain why I quit when I did, but I think part of it was I felt I was on the brink of more personality changes. I was getting harder, and less open. I really didn't like that. 

Maybe quitting helped me find a way to be more of the type of person I want to be while still working on things I enjoy. Maybe it didn't. Maybe the storm would have passed anyway.

But I'm noticing that same hard-edged feeling in myself now. This time, it isn't due to work. It is the election. It is the way Hillary Clinton was treated, and is still treated. It is the way some men in the media are treating Chelsea Clinton. It is the vileness of Trump's behavior towards women, and how little that matters. This has nothing to do with policy. It is about the contempt shown to women. 

I have not figured out how to be OK with this. I don't really want to be OK with this, so maybe what I need to figure out is how to coexist with this without having it give me the hard edge I didn't want. I don't even know how to start working on this. But I think I'll know I've failed if the old guys stop asking me for help in the grocery store.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Weekend Reading: The 100 Days Edition

I had such a nice rollerblade today! It was a bit windy, so I got more of a workout than usual, but the temperature was perfect and it was just a nice day to be out by the bay.

I also have some nice news to share: this week I signed a contract for my next children's book! In fact, I signed a three book contract. These will be easy readers with a science-y theme. The first one is about dinosaurs. I have no info on publication schedule yet. I'll keep you posted! I should probably also start paying attention to my children's books author site again!

Moving on to less happy topics...

David Remnick wrote a brutal survey of Trump's first 100 days at The New Yorker. I can't really argue with any of it.

Michelle Goldberg argues that we've gotten to the point where there's one standard for Republicans and one for Democrats, and that the only way out is for Democrats to promise to investigate every sleazy thing Trump does. I have a hard time finding anything to argue with there, either, although I wonder if the double standard is a function of Republicans vs. Democrats or just one party controlling the legislature and executive vs. not.

One thing we need to investigate as soon as we get a Congress willing to actually investigate: the use of official State Department websites to promote Trump's private club.

I was glad to see the second attempt at repealing the ACA fail. As I tweeted earlier (in response to this article from Greg Sargent), I wish the Republicans would face some facts on healthcare, take a deep breath, and try to actually fix things. Actually, I wish they'd do that on anything. The GOP leadership is living in a fantasyland, and that is not good for our country.

From the standpoint of politics, though, I think Josh Marshall is right that this second attempt provides some hefty ammunition against Republicans in 2018, even though it did not even get to a vote.

So, moving on from politics but staying at TPM: I also agree with Josh Marshall's assessment of the problem facing Fox News right now.

I like this article from Caitlin Fitzsimmons about how rest improves work.

I do not like the reason why larger sized clothes fit so poorly.

Hee hee:

This is fun: the same sentence, in English, going back through the years.

And here's your BUNNIES!!!

Happy weekend, everyone! Thanks to a sleepover for Pumpkin and my sister's kind offer to take Petunia for a night, we get a kid-free night tomorrow. We're going to go mattress shopping. We're so much fun! (We'll probably have a nice dinner out, too.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Trip Story: Malibu and Santa Barbara

I'd better finish writing about our spring break vacation before I forget the details!

Earlier, I wrote about the two days we spent in Santa Monica. Since it only takes a couple of hours to drive from Santa Monica to Santa Barbara, we had time to take the scenic route. We headed up the coast, and stopped for morning snack in Malibu.

The kids were excited about Malibu because Mr. Snarky got them hooked on a ridiculous YouTube show called Barbie in the Dreamhouse, which is exactly what you think it is from that name. It is an animated version of Barbie and her friends, and it is set in "Malibu."

But of course, Barbie's "Malibu" is nothing like real Malibu, or at least not the part of real Malibu that nobodies like us can see.

Still, there is a nice lagoon/bird sanctuary.

The Malibu lagoon
Fun story: as we pulled into the parking lot to check out this lagoon, we saw a school group heading in. Then, in the parking lot, there was a fancy catered lunch, with tables with tableclothes and a couple of food trucks. I am ashamed to admit that my first thought was "damn, school field trips are different here!" In fact, it was a film shoot, and the fancy lunch was for the film crew, not the school kids.

(We couldn't tell what they were filming. It was a surf scene, but the surf was lame, so we're pretty sure it was a generic surf scene for a film/show not about surfing. We didn't recognize anyone, but I would not recognize anyone from even the most famous shows, because I only watch ancient Midsommer Murders, cheesy Dutch mystery shows (Heer & Meester), and delightful New Zealand mystery shows (Brokenwood Mysteries), none of which would be filming in Malibu.)

Anyhow, after admiring the view and the grounds of the old house from which we could see the view (the Adamson house), we headed to a nearby mall I'd chosen as a likely snack stop. There isn't any reason to dwell on that, unless you're into $400 sneakers. (I am not.)

From Malibu, we drove to Ventura for lunch. Ventura is a nice town, but all we did there was eat lunch and take some time to play on the playground. Then we headed on to Santa Barbara.

We were too early to get into our vacation rental, so we sat on the beach. That was nice.

Also nice: the view from our vacation rental once we got in:

Not a bad view

My parents arrived in Santa Barbara at about the same time we did (having had lunch with us in Ventura). My sister arrived by train a little later, and a good family friend arrived by plane later still. Most of our time in Santa Barbara was about being with family and our friend, but we did do a little sightseeing.

Pumpkin is a 4th grader this year, and in California, 4th graders do a project about the missions. She did her project on Mission Santa Barbara, and so she was keen to go check it out. We did so, but could not go in the actual church, because it is still a church and there was a funeral that day.

Still, Pumpkin was happy to at least see the Mission, and she liked seeing some of the exhibits in the museum.

Mission Santa Barbara

The next day, we gave Petunia her wish for the trip, and took her to see the Santa Barbara Zoo, It is much smaller than our zoo, but it has its own charms, such as a dinosaur show.

Dino show at the zoo!
The penguin exhibit was also a hit, as was the train. Honestly, a train ride and dinosaurs in one stop is enough to make Petunia a very happy kid.

The real highlight of Santa Barbara for the kids, though, was being just a block and a half from the beach. It wasn't really swimming weather, but it was fine "play on the beach in the sand" weather, and they had a blast.

On Sunday, we had to pack up and head home. We drove home in a single day. We broke up the drive with a stop in Santa Ana for lunch at Polly's Pies (pretty good!) and a visit to the "cube"- the Orange County Discovery Cube, which is a kids' science museum. My kids had seen the big black cube from the freeway a few times, and so were interested to see what was inside.

The Cube
Inside is a decent science museum, but it was packed the day we were there. Still, the kids had enough fun that they didn't mind getting back in the car for the remainder of the drive home.

All in all, it was a really great spring break. Sadly, the rest of April has not been so idyllic. There's been a lot of fun, but a little too much hecticness (yeah, I know, that's not a word, but it describes April perfectly, so it stays). Here's hoping I can catch my breath in May, before the end of school year rush sets in.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Trying to Rally Edition

I'm planning to go to my local science march tomorrow. I'm sure I'll be glad once I get there, but right now, my main emotion about this is resentment. I don't want to have to march to defend science. It is my wedding anniversary, and instead of doing something nice with my husband, I am sticking him with the Saturday gymnastics classes so that I can go march. It seems ridiculous to have to march to say "we should let facts inform our opinions, not the other way around," but here we are.

I also don't want to have to make phone calls and send faxes to insist that the people in power take the conflicts of interest in this administration and the Russian interference in our election seriously. Some seriously sketchy and not at all normal stuff is going on, and I don't know if its goal is to make the Trump family money or to advance Putin's interests or both. It seems I shouldn't have to exert so much pressure to get this investigated.

I don't want to have to make another round of phone calls against the latest disaster of a health care "plan" from the Republicans. I don't want to have to make phone calls against the stupid wall. I hate that I worry about sending a letter to the Secretary of Homeland Security protesting the deportation of a young man with DACA protection. I'll probably do it, but my husband's renewed green card hasn't come in the mail yet, so maybe I should just avoid drawing attention to us, instead. I hate that this thought even crosses my mind.

And I am well and truly tired of being sanctimoniously exhorted to feel empathy for the voters who put us in this mess. My empathy store is a little depleted right now.

I know I need to get over myself and keep working for what is right. And I will. I will rally and go to the march tomorrow. I will rally and make my phone calls/send my faxes next Wednesday. I will keep going. But every now and then, I will feel some resentment that I have to spend my time on this.

All of which has nothing to do with today's links.

I think Jamelle Bouie's take on the recent special elections is good.

David Fahrenthold talks about three ways in which what he learned from reporting on Donald Trump's charity giving foreshadowed Trump's behavior as president.

Here's an alternative vision for the border region just east of Otay Mesa. I know there must be some people in San Diego who support the wall, but I haven't run into them. Even the people who want stronger border enforcement think the wall won't work, and want the money spent in other ways.

Caroline Criado-Perez has a good post about Fearless Girl and the reaction of the guy who created the charging bull statue. No, really, read it even if you're sick of that whole discussion.

The Handmaid's Tale is a warning for conservative women. This article got shared out by Margaret Atwood herself, which was pretty cool. It touches on one of the issues I've long had with women who lead campaigns in defense of "traditional values" like women being housewives. They have a career: they speak and write and have a space outside their home. But they would deny it to me. Sarah Jones, the author of the article, comes from a conservative Christian background, and she understands and explains it better than I do. If for no other reason, this article is worth your time.

(I have one point of disagreement: I do think it is possible to be anti-abortion and a feminist, but I think the people who claim to be rarely follow through on what would be required to truly be a feminist. To me, a feminist has to want women to have the same chance at self-fulfillment as men. That is only possible if a reproductive accident will not derail our lives. Access to abortion is one way to make that possible. But there are other ways. Better maternity leave, more cultural support for and less discrimination against mothers in the workplace, better child care subsidies for people who need them.... If you are opposed abortion but still consider yourself a feminist, I think you need to spend some time thinking about how to make a world in which abortion would not feel so necessary to so many women. I don't see a lot of that work being done, to be honest, but then again, I haven't gone in search of it. I suspect there are pockets of people thinking like this in the anti-abortion movement, but right now, they are utterly drowned out by the "a woman's place is in the home" crowd.)

Moving on from the contentious issues....

This is an interesting history of the pursuit of happiness.

Speaking of happiness... We have a lot of stuff, and it seems to be stressing us out, not making us happy, particularly if we are women. This is probably why that Kondo method was popular: it promised a way to get rid of stuff.

And here's something that did make me happy: A nice post from Margaret Redlich, the author of Don't Call It Bollywood, about the history of dancing in films (US and Indian).

Kelly J. Baker wrote a really nice essay about quitting.

Warning: this language guessing game is a huge time sink.


That's it for this week. If you're marching tomorrow, I hope you have a good time!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Working around the Barriers

I had lunch with an old grad school friend today. It was great to see her, and as always, lunch with a friend did me good.

But there was an undertone of... I don't know what. Sadness? Anger? Frustration?... too. Every time I meet up with a woman friend who is in my generation, I hear about how sexism and gender bias are blocking her progress. This is not because my friends are whiners, or prone to looking for something external to blame for their problems. In fact, the stories usually come out as an aside, to explain a change in course. She was working her way around a barrier, and that barrier was usually a man. If it wasn't a man, it was multiple men.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I've heard a variation of this story at least 10 times in the last year. It is demoralizing to think about this in the aggregate. So much talent being thwarted.

But I'll say this for us: we're all finding a way around. A lot of us won't get what we originally set our sights on, but we're all getting pretty good lives. So that's something.

The other heartening thing is that we're helping each other find our new paths. On my more optimistic days, I think that in another 10 years, I'll look at what my group of friends has accomplished and be amazed. We will have built an alternate universe of success.

On my less optimistic days, I think we are doomed to achieve less than our potential. We will salvage good lives from the wreckage of our ambitions, but we will always know we could have done more.

Probably, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

I see signs of hope. Not in millennial men. Sorry, some of them are awesome. So are some GenX men. So are some Boomer men. But my own experience has shown me that younger men can be just as sexist as their elders. In fact, sometimes they are more sexist because they haven't met the woman who will teach them to be better yet. Seriously, just look at Silicon Valley.

No, I see signs of hope in women. Just as we are individually finding our ways around the barriers in our careers, we are collectively looking for ways around the barriers. I hope that we remember to go back and dismantle those barriers where we can. Because my daughters and their friends are coming behind us. When I sit and watch my daughters' gymnastics class, I am in awe of the joy and strength of the girls out on that floor. I want a world where that joy and strength—and joy in strength—can continue into adulthood. When I went to watch my daughter's spelling bee, I was thrilled to see the kids supporting each other, cheering for each other. Boys and girls cheered for and high-fived their classmates, even when they were clearly disappointed not to be the one still in the running. I see my friends working to raise their sons to be just as feminist as their daughters, and I think, maybe we can fix this. Not for our generation, but for the next one.

I think my generation will be a generation of women who mostly had to find their way around the barriers. What keeps me going is the thought that maybe I can help bring some of those barriers down for my daughters.

So, here's to lunch with friends. And here's to finding our way around the barriers. But also: here's to finding a way to break those damn barriers down.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trip Story: Santa Monica

We took a little trip up the coast for spring break this year, stopping for a couple of nights in Santa Monica and then three nights in Santa Barbara. Neither location was new to us, but our kids had never been to Santa Monica, and neither really remembers our last visit to Santa Barbara. I thought I'd write about the entire trip in one post, but I ran out of steam, so this is just about Santa Monica.

We set out mid-morning on Tuesday, and stopped for lunch at Irvine Spectrum and some play time at Heritage Park in Irvine. Then we got back in the car and drove to the first real stop of our trip: Randy's Donuts!

The doughnut promised land.
For those who aren't familiar with this SoCal landmark, I'll just say that it is so famous that one of the kids at our school built a model of it for his "California Landmarks" project.

The doughnuts were pretty good. They have all three types of doughnuts: cake, glazed, and (my favorite) old-fashioned. I'm not sure I'd go out of my way to visit again, but I'm more of an ice cream person than a doughnut person.

After our pit stop, we drove on to our hotel in Santa Monica, which was a surprisingly quirky Days Inn. It had a bit of an art deco vibe and a rooftop sun deck with plaques naming US presidents. It also had a comfortable room and an OK free breakfast, so I have no complaints.

For the first evening, we headed down to Venice. We wanted to show our kids the canals. It happened that my parents (who were meeting up with us in Santa Barbara) were in Santa Monica that night, too, in a hotel just a few blocks from ours. So we all headed to Venice. We parked near Mother's Beach in Marina del Rey, and let the kids have a short play on the playground. Then we walked into Venice and strolled the canals.

Unfortunately, we happened to be there during one of the times in which they drain the canals (to keep the water from getting stagnant), so the canals weren't quite as impressive as we remembered from earlier visits. But they were still a nice place to stroll, and the kids liked looking at the different houses along the paths.

Usually, there is more water.
We had dinner at C&O Trattoria, which is a very family friendly place noted for an unlimited supply of garlic knots (which, to our surprise, both of our kids liked) and for the sing along to That's Amore. We managed to hang on just long enough to see the sing along (some of us even participated), and then we walked back to our car.

The next day, my parents headed to The Getty. We had considered going there, too, but decided our kids would enjoy it more in a few years. Instead, we headed to the Santa Monica pier to be stereotypical tourists.

We got to the pier waaaay too early. Our kids start their days at 7 a.m., if we're lucky enough to get a little bit of a sleep in. So we were down to the pier not long after 9. Nothing much was open there until 10, and the amusement park wasn't open until 11.... so we walked a short way to the original muscle beach location. Petunia liked the tall swings, and Pumpkin had fun climbing the ropes and trying her hand at the rings. 

Harder than it looks
Between muscle beach, the arcade, and just strolling the pier, we killed enough time to be able to go on a couple of rides at the amusement park. The kids chose the Ferris wheel and the bungee/trampoline thing. 

The view from the Ferris wheel. We had lunch at the place with the yellow roof.
They'd have done more, but we didn't want to spend that much, and anyways, it was time for lunch. The Mexican place at the end of the pier was not bad at all, which is surprising for a restaurant that can rely on its location for a constant stream of customers. After lunch, we walked out to the waves and the kids had fun getting their feet wet. We only pulled them away from the beach with a promise of more beach time once we got to Santa Barbara. 

Happy children. And a bear. Petunia wore her bear a lot this trip.
We also strolled Colorado Street. Petunia was impressed with the dinosaur fountains. Pumpkin wanted to get a treat, but I held her off with a promise of ice cream at a really good place I remembered in Santa Monica Place mall. But that ice cream shop was gone, so we had frozen yogurt at a pretty average place instead. Then we walked over to Tongva Park because we wanted to see it and because we thought the kids could use some playground time.  It is a nice park, but I didn't take any nice pictures there, so you'll just have to take my word for it..

After some park time, we went back to our hotel for a bit, then headed out again in the car. We were meeting friends in Encino for dinner. Although Encino is quite close to Santa Monica, there is no good route there at rush hour. (Really: go to Google Maps and check how long it takes to drive between Santa Monica and Encino at 5 p.m. on a weekday, and then check it again at 10 p.m.. If you've never understood why people complain about LA traffic, this will probably make it clear.)

Our plan was to leave early and drive over to Westwood and then up to Mulholland Drive. We'd then drive along Mulholland and down into Encino. This worked... sort of. There was a lot of traffic along Wiltshire until we got past the 405 and the kids got impatient in the back seat. Then Google Traffic showed an accident on our route up to Mulholland, so I rerouted us on the fly... right into Bel Air. I half expected to be blocked by a gate, but we were not. And to my surprise, the kids LOVED this detour. They were really impressed with the big fancy houses, and happily pointed out which ones they'd like to own as we worked our way through Bel Air and Beverly Glen up to Mulholland. Then we managed to miss every single scenic pullout on Mulholland, and just drove along it and then down into Encino, again through a neighborhood of very nice houses. 

Dinner in Encino was delightful. It was great to catch up with our friends. And by the time we were done with dinner, traffic had cleared, and we could take the direct route back to the hotel. 

All in all, it was a nice short visit to one of the most tourist-friendly parts of LA. The next day, we got up and headed north to Malibu... but I'll pick that up some other time. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Catching Up Edition

I've had a pretty good week, work-wise, and am almost caught up again. If I get a good Sunday morning work session, I should be set. (For those who don't know: I "trade" some work time on Sunday mornings for a Friday afternoon rollerblade, which I am just back from. The bay path is less crowded on Friday afternoons, and if I schedule writing work for Sunday mornings I rather enjoy settling in with my tea to do some work while the kids have a lazy morning, so this is a win-win arrangement for me.)

I am over the cold I caught on spring break, but still sniffly because there are wildflowers everywhere. I cannot remember another year like this for wildflowers. All open space is awash in color, mostly yellow, but with some splashes of pink/purple and orange. It is really pretty, but my allergies are going berserk. Then yesterday, I made them worse by pulling out a bunch of wild grass that was growing in our native landscaped front yard. There is more to pull, but I think I'll leave that for Mr. Snarky. He doesn't have a grass allergy!

Anyhow, let's get to the links.

I didn't save many links about politics. I'm still following what is going on, but maybe I have a bit of fatigue on the topic. I will re-up my recommendation of Talking Points Memo for a good round up of the most important stories of the day, along with some smart analysis (with a left of center tilt). I've found Josh Marshall's analysis of the Russia story particularly helpful. He's not prone to exaggeration, and is good and pulling together the strands from the reporting at the "big" places. Here is his latest on that topic, so you can see what I mean.

This story about the closing of hospitals in rural Tennessee highlights one of my problems with running health care as a for profit enterprise: just because there isn't a profit to be made in some location, that doesn't mean there isn't a need there.

The different standard women who run for office must meet.

Sesame Street has introduced a muppet with autism, Julia. Vox reporter Dylan Matthews, who has autism, wrote a really good piece about why this matters and why the particular way in which they introduced Julia is so important.

GoGoGrandparent sounds like a promising idea, really poorly implemented.

Sady Doyle considers that maybe women don't need to apologize less. Maybe men need to apologize more. Really, this one is worth reading just for the phrase "critical apology failure."

Read about Pauli Murray, the Civil Rights and women's rights activist who gets left out of a lot of our stories about those movements.

Kameron Hurley's post about trying to be a pro writer while also having a full time day job really resonated with me, even though I'm not trying to be a pro writer. One of the things that my current work arrangement makes possible is for me to focus on multiple career interests without courting burnout. I'm very grateful for that.

Jenna Price's 60th birthday note to her 30 year old self is wonderful.

Women surgeons are replicating a New Yorker cover and it is awesome.

This bunny reminds me of the pet bunny I had for the longest period of time.

Happy weekend, everyone!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Sunday Night Existential Whimper

I swear I'll write up our spring break trip, because it was a fun trip and I like to write trip story posts, dammit.

But it isn't going to happen tonight. Nor am I going to write a glowing ode to my oldest child, who somehow is now 10 years old, although she deserves one.

Instead, I'm going to whine about how this week just kicked my butt. Re-entry from a vacation is always hard. Re-entry from a vacation when you've caught a cold at the tail end of that vacation is especially hard. Add in a kid's birthday, a spelling bee, and a birthday party you've foolishly agreed to host at your house instead of one of the many locations that will run the damn party for you, and you have a recipe for exhaustion.

Plus, I had a fun little tax-related panic that ate up a significant amount of work time on Friday.

So, what I'm saying is: I am behind on EVERYTHING. I am considering, for the first time in my life, sending out a blanket "yes, I owe you a response on something but it won't come for another week" sort of email.

We'll see how long it takes me to finish unwinding the tax panic tomorrow. (The panic, for anyone who is curious, stemmed from me putting my SEP-IRA contributions in the wrong place on the questionnaire I filled out for my accountant, who thought I'd paid them as a person and not as a business, which was therefore going to require classifying some of my income as "self employment income," thereby necessitating payment of the self-employment tax on said income, rather than having all my income be either salary I paid myself (and therefore paid social security taxes on) or profit. This may seem like a small thing to you, but this was going to add a lot of money to our tax bill and for the period of time in which I thought the problem was the SEP-IRA that I'd opened and not my putting it on the wrong questionnaire I felt like an absolute idiot and thought that maybe I shouldn't be trying to run a company at all if I couldn't even get a retirement account opened without screwing things up.)

Anyhow, that's all sorted now, but we still owe an alarming sum in taxes. We sat down tonight to figure out why, and it is because my husband got a raise and my business made more money in 2016 vs. 2015 and we withheld/paid estimated taxes assuming the 2015 amount. OOPS. But not really something to complain about. We're going to adjust our withholding this year, and hopefully not face another big bill next year.

I will say, though, that for the first time ever, I sort of resent paying my taxes. I don't want to pay for a stupid border wall or security for Melania Trump so she can live in NYC and avoid her husband or, for that matter, for that husband to keep jetting off to the private club he owns in Florida. I will happily pay my taxes to fund Meals on Wheels and the EPA and the NIH and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities. Happily. But the graft and waste going on in this administration is making the tax bill hurt more.

Speak of stupid border walls... Mr. Snarky took Pumpkin to pick out a piñata for her birthday party. He went to a local store that specializes in piñatas instead of just going to Party City or the like. She picked out a nice big music note, but she came home and told me about another piñata she saw: it was made to look like a big, brick wall and it had Trump's face on it. Clever.

And speaking of Pumpkin: it is a delight to watch her grow up. She stepped in to help smooth things over during Saturday's party when there was a kerfuffle between the big kids (her friends) and the little kids (Petunia and her friends) about time in the jumpy. In the end, I think all of the kids had a great time at the party, and this is the first year where Pumpkin really helped make that happen. She came in third at the 4th grade spelling bee. She went out because she didn't understand the word as the pronouncer said it (and I won't go into details, but he did mispronounce it), but she took this without drama. She loves to read, so much so that most of her friends gave her either books or Barnes and Noble gift cards for her birthday and she was thrilled by that. I could go on and on, but I said I wasn't going to write a glowing ode to her. I will just say that getting to watch you children turn into people you don't just love but are proud of is one of the great joys of parenthood.

Petunia is pretty great, too. She and her little friends decided to do a science experiment during the party. She got out her beakers and set up to do an experiment to find out which things float and which things sink in water. She wrote up the design and was ready to record the data, but they got distracted by the discovery that some types of beads float and others sink, and ended up just filling lots of bowls with water to play with beads. I couldn't even be mad about the mess, really, because it was ridiculously cute to watch them.

So, in summary: vacations are great, but re-entry is hard. Taxes are a pain, but all things considered, I'd rather make the money and owe the taxes than not make the money. And kids are delightful, but birthday parties are exhausting.

I'll write more once I'm caught up on things!

Friday, April 07, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Trying Not to Hate Everything Edition

I'm super stressed out right now because I'm behind on everything. I'm behind on everything because I caught a little cold at the tail end of our vacation and have therefore been operating at low efficiency. Also, Wednesday was Pumpkin's birthday (OMG. She is 10. How did that happen?) AND she was in the 4th grade spelling bee (she came in 3rd!) AND we are having a party for her tomorrow. GAH. So much to do!

So, of course, I was thrilled to lose a couple of hours today to dealing with our taxes. First, the drive to our accountant's office took twice as long because I had to do it during the first part of rush hour. Before that, I was trapped at home waiting for a DHL delivery. On the bright side, the delivery was my kids' NZ passports and citizenship certificates.  It makes me happy to have those.

Then, I suffered extreme shock at the amount we owed. Some of that may turn out to be wrong. There is confusion about the retirement account I opened last year. So I spent almost an hour on the phone with Vanguard trying to understand that, then had to call my accountant back... and GAH. Why can't we make saving for retirement simpler?!?!?!

Anyhow, here I am, at the end of my workday, with several things I "had" to do today not done, but needing to go get the kids because they are going to a parent's night out thing so that Mr. Snarky and I can go finish the party shopping. GAH. Why must work and life always gang up on me?

So... here are the links.

This Noah Smith column kind of dovetails with my general crankiness about retirement savings. I know I'm doing a lot better than a lot of my fellow Gen-Xers, but honestly, I look ahead and don't see how we'll ever get to retire. (OK, that is mainly an emotional response. We're saving and doing what we're supposed to, but we have two kids who hit college when we're mid-50s, and what we most want to do in retirement is travel, and that is expensive. So... It just feels unattainable, even if maybe we will actually get to some place good. In fact, part of what I was trying to do by starting my own company was free up flexibility to travel more now, at the expense of probably working longer... This is getting too long for a parenthetical. Maybe it will be the topic of this month's Founding Chaos newsletter.)

Why the Gorsuch filibuster was worth it, even though Gorsuch is now confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. I know my Republican friends will disagree with a lot (or maybe all) of what E.J. Dionne wrote there, but I'd recommend reading it if for no other reason that to try to understand why Democrats are so very mad right now.

And while we're talking about things that make Democrats angry: The failure of the ACA repeal bill is good news, but also infuriating.

Rebecca Traister's article about Trump and O'Reilly captures a lot of what I'm feeling looking at the situation as a woman. Frankly, I feel like a really large chunk of Republican men don't view me as a full human being, with my own goals and desires. They only see me (and other women) in terms of how we impact men. (And to continue to be frank: I think there is a non-negligible group of Democrat men who basically have the same problem, but just express it in different ways.)

This is a really thought-provoking post about the problem with autodidacts. I'm still thinking about it, in fact, since I'm someone who believes in "never stop learning." I guess I also believe in the value of formal training to give that learning a solid foundation.

In happier news:

Matt Yglesias makes the case for immigration.

Giving out naloxone to let addicts live to have another chance.

Vaccinating pregnant women for pertussis (whooping cough) protects the baby. This is HUGE, because there have been some really heartbreaking stories of brand new babies getting infected and dying.

This story is part nice and part infuriating, and all the way interesting: what happened when two Lisa S. Davises got tangled up in the DMV records.



And in amongst that, there was a pause to go get my kids, and now it is time to take them to the parent's night out and go have our romantic grocery shopping date.

Happy weekend everyone! I hope your tax returns are coming together more easily than mine are.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Spring Break

I'm just back from a short spring break vacation to Santa Monica and Santa Barbara. I'll do a trip story post about it soon, because I like to write up my vacations so that I can remember them better.

I wrote up a long post about some of the things I thought about during the driving part of the trip, when I wasn't quizzing Pumpkin on her spelling bee words. But when I reread it, it struck me as sort of boring, so I'll set it aside and come back to it later.

For now, I'll just say: vacations are a good thing. Seeing friends you haven't seen in awhile is a good thing. Sitting on the beach watching your kids play in the sand is a good thing.

Back when I first started thinking about changing my work arrangements to get more flexibility, one of the things I wanted was the freedom to travel more now, when I'm healthy enough to be able to do most things and when my kids are young enough to still want to go places with me. I wrote a post about it, but I can't find it right now. Regardless, I haven't really made that happen yet. As I drove the last leg of our trip home yesterday, I thought about that wish again. I'd still like to figure out how to make it happen. My kids are great travelers (mostly: there was a little bit of whining about being stuck in LA traffic, but a lot of people whine about being stuck in LA traffic) and getting out and seeing new things with them is a lot of fun. 

Anyone else have fun spring break plans? Do share.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dinner during Dora: Easy Pizza

Long time readers may or may not remember that I was looking for a good pizza dough recipe. I have been meaning to post the pizza dough recipe I eventually settled on for a long time, but I kept forgetting to take pictures of the final product. I have finally assembled all of the pictures I need and I have a somewhat lazy Sunday morning going: I am sitting at my computer drinking tea while my kids play, but I don't really need to do any work.

So, I'll tell you about the pizza dough.

The recipe below is derived from the Smitten Kitchen Lazy Pizza dough that Today Wendy recommended. I made some changes because Pumpkin didn't care for the dough I made by following the original recipe. The rest of us liked it, but I was determined to find something everyone would like. My additions are a little whole wheat flour and some "green can cheese" (Kraft Parmesan in the can—I would have used cheese powder as recommended in one of the other recipes I found, but I didn't have any and my grocery store doesn't stock that and the whole point was for this to be easy.)

Easy Pizza Dough

2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 cup water, plus more as needed to make a "craggy" dough that sticks together. I was using less water than needed at first, and the dough wasn't rising as much as it should have. The crust still tasted good, but it was a little dense and chewy. Live and learn.

Yeast, based on how long you're going to let the dough sit on the counter:
1/8 tsp for overnight + the next day
1/4 tsp for just the day
1/2 tsp for a half day (~6 hrs)

1/3 cup "green can" Kraft Parmesan cheese

Mix everything but the Parmesan cheese together in a big bowl, cover loosely with a tea towel, and let it stand for the desired amount of time. This is really quick, which is why I don't mind doing it in the morning. It takes five minutes to throw together, at most.

Dough, ready to rise

When you're ready to make your pizza, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Then add the Parmesan cheese and work it into the dough. I add about a third, fold the dough over, add another bit, fold the dough over, then add the rest and fold the dough over again. Then I fold and squeeze the dough until the cheese is worked in.

Dough, having risen.
Then shape your crust. I can't add anything to the instructions in the original Smitten Kitchen recipe here, so go read that. I do follow those instructions and spray cooking spray on my cookie sheets and then coat with cornmeal.

I may need to work on my crust shaping skills.
Top with your desired toppings. I make three pizzas: one for the grown ups, one with just sauce and cheese for Petunia, and one with just cheese for Pumpkin.

Bake at 500 degrees F for ~15 minutes. Then let it stand about 5 minutes so that you don't burn yourself cutting it.

The finished products.
Eat and enjoy!

Source: derived from the awesome Smitten Kitchen Lazy Pizza recipe.

Who eats it: Everyone!


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